Original Air Date: March 14, 1990
Written by: Randy Holland
Directed by: Joe Napolitano
Leap date: September 4, 1954
This time: Seam leaps into a pool parlor. After expressing confusion at a bet over the shot, the wager is increased. He misses and as his opponent gets ready to win the bet, an older spectator, Grady, tells the player than Sam leapt into Charlie “Black Magic” Walters, pool legend. The opponent withdraws his wager and most everyone has a good laugh.
The lounge singer, Violet, comes off the stage and quiets everyone down. She is the proprietress of the venue and Magic’s granddaughter. A local named Eddie is not willing to let things go for the night. He holds the marker, and it is coming due in two days. He is eager to take the place over.
Al arrives, fan gushing over Magic. Al has a history with Magic; the legend helped him get through a dark time in the orphanage. Eddie has wanted to play Magic and puts up the marker for that privilege, knowing that Magic’s eyes are past their prime. Sam’s may be better, but he does not know pool.
The next morning, Sam proposes they go to a bank and get the money to buy out the maker. At their local branch, they are referred to Mr. Griffin, the sole African American Loan Officer. Despite wanting to help, their application is denied. Violet in convinced that she will have to give Eddie ‘what he wants’ to get rid of the marker. Sam is able to stop her before things go too far, but that means that the game is the only way to keep the place.
Al gives Sam a primer, and while there is progress, getting the angles right is a matter of geometry. Sam knows the basics but knowing what to do is a skill that takes years. Al wishes he could draw it out and does, thanks to the magic of holograms.
Things go well until the holographic lights start to fade. There is a power issue and Al goes to see what he can do leaving Sam to stall. Sam calls for a time out letting Grady put away the cue. Eddie has a flunky take out the pool cue. He also does a good job on Grady, though Sam gets revenge. Grady lets Sam use another cue; Grady’s own.
Back from the break, Al comes through but with only a couple minutes of power left. The match point is a tricky shot going off three rails when the power goes out for good. Sam pulls it off on his own and claims the marker. Violet rips it and Sam leaps …
… into a swinging acrobat.
Stop talking to yourself: In a rarity, Sam does not monologue at all. We will need to keep track of this going forward.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al hates going to the men’s room for a moment with Sam.
Mirror images that were not his own: As Grady lists Magic’s resume, Sam gets a look at the legend. He gets a better look in the men’s room.
Brush with history: Sam might have introduced the term “happening” into the vernacular.
Something or someone: After winning, Sam gets to hang around for a moment to have some bonding with Violet. Not too much as he leaps mid-sentence.
It’s a science project: We get to see the geometry of pool in this episode.
Let’s up the rating: While we do see Violet dressed up all purty, just like with monologuing, there is a distinct lack of sexiness in this episode.
One more time: “You’ve made it. Maybe it took you twice as long, but you made it. And being first bears some responsibility to those who are trying to make it behind you.”
Sam to Loan Officer Griffin.
Trivial Matters: Al mentions that he fan goobered at seeing Magic in the Waiting Room. The general assumption is that everyone including Al sees Sam as the leapee while the person in the Waiting Room always looks like Sam. In this case, we can say that Magic revealed his identity and Al went all fangoobery.
Put right what once went wrong: “Pythagoras, we are going to shoot some pool!” There are all sorts of sports movies. Football. Soccer. Baseball. Hockey, Tennis Ping Pong. Even Chess. Pool is not really represented in the pantheon.
This episode is exhibit A for why they should get more credence.
This is a great hour of television to watch. While I am not a sports movie fan, this was compelling drama to behold. The scenario is set up at the start and everyone gets their chance to shine. There is even time left at the end for the requisite climactic shot to win.
There is not a bad note in the cast. Shari Headley plays violet as the strong African American female business owner who does what she must to keep her business afloat. She has come nice scenes where she reminisces with Sam. Teddy Wilson’s Grady is the kind of guy you will hang around with for an hour even when you only have fifteen minutes. There is a charisma that is hard to describe and really must be seen. As Eddie, J. W. Smith plays villainous smarm but is motivated beyond twirling his moustache. It helps the stakes when we know the antagonist and see their side of things. Griffin is only in one scene, but it is magnificent. There are hushed tones and even if he could approve the loan, there are doubts he would do so. It is a smack in the face of Sam and brilliantly acted by the three. Robert Gossett does a lot with a little.
The writing is fantastic as well. We get scenes establishing character relationships. Sam and Violet, Eddie and Violet, Sam and Eddie, Sam and Grady. There is a lot of character work done with Magic’s pool cue. Al is especially motivated to get Magic out of his debt. His solution of literally showing Sam the ropes is genius and appeases the geometry fans in the audience.
The pool hall scenes really give you a flavor for the atmosphere. There is a live band, and everyone genuinely seem to be having a good time meaning that they are either amazing actors or they were having a genuinely good time. It is probably a bit of both. Nonetheless the setting rang true for an enjoyable episode.